Pompey Snatch Points From Hatters

Last updated : 30 August 2015 By Jim Bonner

Portsmouth scored their second stoppage time goal in consecutive league games yesterday to beat Luton 2-1 at Kenilworth Road and complete an unbeaten August.

Prior to the match in the pub a Hatters fan said to me: "Tubbs always scores against us." To which I replied: "Not this time he won't, he's been dropped for Stockley and doesn't look a threat in our system anyway." This was one of those occasions where I was more than happy to be proved wrong!

Paul Cook's men started the match well and took the lead with a huge slice of luck as Luke Wilkinson's clearance from Enda Stevens' cross was blasted straight into Scott Cuthbert and the ball fell to the feet of Gareth Evans who fired the ball home from close range.

Pompey looked comfortable until Nigel Atangana was penalised for a foul on Josh McQuoid in the box. I was in front of the incident and thought it was a soft one as McQuoid went down easily and then later in the game should have been booked for diving.

Craig Mackail-Smith made no mistake from the spot to equalise and then Luton began to play their way into the match. Brian Murphy was called into action to head the ball away on the edge of his own box after some hesitant defending by Christian Burgess as Ryan Hall put him under pressure.

However, the game had turned into a scrappy affair with both teams short on quality. Too many passes were going astray and any physical attempts to win the ball back were being classed as fouls by picky referee Peter Bankes.

Bankes almost had an assist to his name too as Evans' pass was intercepted by the referee and Cameron McGeehan's resulting shot flew over as the man in black continued to draw the Pompey fans' ire in the Oak Road Stand.

A frustrating match came to life at the end of the half when Mackail-Smith headed a cross wide when he should have scored whilst down te other end ex-Hatters loanee Jayden Stockley forced a save from close range from Elliot Justham in the Luton goal when he perhaps should have done better.

The second half was much of the same as both teams continued to battle away and fail to score big chances.

McGeehan capitalised on a defensive mix up only to see his shot go wide whilst Stockley very nearly got on the end of a teasing Evans cross that would have certainly resulted in a goal. The latter's header from a corner soon after was also cleared off the line at the far post.

The match was finally living up to its billing with both capable of scoring a winner though some dogged defending from Pompey prevented the hosts from scoring whilst the linesman continued to infuriate the travelling support by constantly raising his flag to halt promising Portsmouth attacks.

There was even more anger to come as Ben Davies wasn't allowed to return to the pitch after being treated for bleeding and in previous seasons Luton probably would have taken advantage of their extra man and bagged a late winner.

This season, however, is proving to be different. As the clock ticked into stoppage time everyone in the ground would surely have been content to walk away from Kenilworth Road content with a point as a draw would have been a fair result on balance of play.

But two substitutes had other ideas as a long ball was received by Conor Chaplin whose shot could only be parried by Justham into the path of the onrushing Tubbs who tapped in the winner in the 91st minute to send the supporters behind the goal into bedlam!

The rest of stoppage time was seen out professionally to confirm Pompey's second away victory of the season and make a statement of intent for the rest of the campaign.

To score such a late winner in a tight match seems ominous for all of the right reasons as in previous years it was ourselves who would be on the receiving end of last-gasp equalisers or winners. It's difficult not to get a little carried away when things like this happen as it just adds further belief that this is finally Pompey's year.

As for the match itself there were a few outstanding performers for the visitors. Atangana may have given away the penalty but he won the vast majority of his challenges and he often ran the ball into space and out of danger before giving it to a team mate when last season he would have given it away.

And whilst the centre backs looked shaky at times, both Stevens and Davies were excellent in stopping crosses, winning the ball and getting forward when they could. The former, Morecambe red card aside, has been a model of consistency and would be the hipster's choice for Pompey's best player so far this season.

The manager has to take credit for the victory too as ultimately it was his substitutes that won the match for him. Chaplin continues to make an impact and it's surely only a matter of time before he plays his way into the starting line-up, especially as Kyle Bennett looked lightweight and never really got into the game yesterday.

The last word should be saved for Tubbs who may not suit the 4-2-3-1 system but he still has the predatory instinct to be in the right place at the right time and he will score some important goals as the season progresses.

When you look back at August you'd have to say that it has been slightly better than expected having taken 11 points from 15. The draws against Crawley and Morecambe may have been slightly disappointing for different reasons but they are offset by two excellent wins at Plymouth and Luton who are both expected to finish in the top seven.

September looks to be another difficult month away from home with trips to Oxford and Bristol Rovers but this team has proved that it has what it takes to win these games.

There might be another marquee signing before the transfer window closes on Tuesday too. So right now, it feels good to be a Portsmouth fan and it has been a while since anyone has been able to say that.

Pompey Player Ratings

Brian Murphy: 7 - Alert to smother the danger when centre backs were being hesitant.

Ben Davies: 8 - Another very impressive showing.

Christian Burgess: 6 - Won most of the balls in the air but almost punished for an earlier mistake.

Matt Clarke: 6 - Not quite as composed as in previous games.

Enda Stevens: 8 - Unsung hero of the team.

Nigel Atangana: 8 - Penalty incident aside, was virtually faultless.

Michael Doyle: 7 - Another player whose good work goes unnoticed.

Gareth Evans: 7 - Scored and showed plenty of endeavour going forward and can also produce a good cross too.

Gary Roberts: 6 - Nothing really came off for him.

Kyle Bennett: 5 - Ineffective and bullied off the ball too easily.

Jayden Stockley: 6 - Worked hard but wasted the one good chance he had.


Paul Jones

Adam Webster

Brandan Haunstrup

Danny Hollands

Adam McGurk (Roberts 82): N/A - Gave Luton something else to think about.

Conor Chaplin (Bennett 75): 7 - Looked threatening and played his part in the winner.

Matt Tubbs (Stockley 73): 7 - Right place, right time.